Questions that Sharky gets a lot

Q: What's a pilot fish?

A: There are two answers to that question. One is the Mother Nature version: Pilot fish are small fish that swim just ahead of sharks. When the shark changes direction, so do the pilot fish. When you watch underwater video of it, it looks like the idea to change direction occurred simultaneously to shark and pilot fish.

Thing is, sharks go pretty much anywhere they want, eating pretty much whatever they want. They lunge and tear and snatch, but in so doing, leave plenty of smorgasbord for the nimble pilot fish.

The IT version: A pilot fish is someone who swims with the sharks of enterprise IT -- and lives to tell the tale. Just like in nature, a moment's inattention could end the pilot fish's career. That's life at the reef.

Q: Are all the Sharky stories true?

A: Yes, as best we can determine.

Q: Where do the Sharky tales come from?

A: From readers. Sharky just reads and rewrites and basks in the reflected glory of you, our readers. It is as that famous fish-friendly philosopher Spinoza said, "He that can carp in the most eloquent or acute manner at the weakness of the human mind is held by his fellows as almost divine."

Q: How do I get one of those fabulous Sharky T-shirts?

A: Here's how it works. You send us your tale of perfidy, heroism or just plain weirdness at your IT shop. If Sharky selects it for publication, you get the shirt -- free and clear, no handling charges.

Q: Do I have to write my story in Sharky-ese?

A: No. Not at all. Just be sure to give us details. What happened, to whom, what he said, what she said, how it all worked out.

Q: I've got a really funny story, but I could get fired if my old trout of a boss found out I told you. How confidential is what I send to Sharky?

A: We don't publish names: yours, your boss's, your trout's, your company's. We try to file off the serial numbers, though there's no absolute guarantee that someone who lived through the incident won't recognize himself. Our aim is to share the outrageous, knee-slapping, milk-squirting-out-your-nose funny tales that abound in the IT world, not to get you fired. That would not be funny.

Q: You published my tale. Where's my T-shirt?

A: Hey, hey, cut us a break. You sent your tale over the Internet. If we could send your Shark shirt that way, you can bet we would.

Because most Shark Tank submissions don't include a full mailing address, we have to contact each pilot fish to get the address before sending out a T-shirt. That's done in batch mode, so it can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks. When things really get backed up, it can fall behind as much as a month or more.

But be assured: Sharky vows to forget no one!

Occasionally by the time your tale sees print, your e-mail address will have changed. If your e-mail address changed after you sent your contribution and you never got your shirt, let us know at We'll get right on it.

Q: How do I get each new Shark Tank tale emailed to me?

Easy. Subscribe to the newsletter.

Q: Where are the Sharkives?

Tales of old can be found in Sharky's archive.

The second complaint was going to be 'no music'

Network admin pilot fish walks into the office one morning and is immediately accosted by a user who can't get any work done because of a network application that won't launch -- but everything looks fine.

Maybe they finally realized there IS a problem?

Engineer pilot fish working for a state agency gets a notification from IT by way of his boss: Something is using up all the space on his local hard disk. And as months go by, it's not getting better.

Actually, it's easier without any surprises

Rumor mill says that the division where this IT pilot fish works is about to be hit with a big layoff -- and the details even include the date the ax will fall.

Fortunately, he was tidy but not TOO tidy

This company's new graphics/web designer is told he can trash any of his predecessor's old files he doesn't need -- but he still goes a bit too far.

Because the user is always right, right?

Company that manages an automated teller machine network is doing a complex upgrade of its billing system. The good news: It's finally in testing. The bad news: Billing has an idea for a new requirement.

We'll take our knowledge transfer any way we can

After her cat walks across this business analyst's laptop keyboard, her mouse suddenly won't work -- and when she returns to the office, none of the developers or her co-workers can fix the problem.

'Just drop off a phone,' redefined

Pilot fish has to deliver a replacement cell phone to a user at a remote site, but it's not far from his house and all the prep work for transferring the user's data is already done -- or so he's told.

Unclear on the concept

This IT pilot fish is tasked with upgrading a business user's PC memory, and makes sure to ask the user when she'll be away from her computer so it can be installed. That seems clear enough, doesn't it?

Tomorrow's lesson: Troubleshooting

Elementary-school teacher is frantic because her mouse arrow is stuck in the lower-right corner of her computer screen. Nothing the school's tech coordinator tries will unstick it -- until she mentions something.

Going...going...not going...going...

This pilot fish donates a refusbished PC to be sold at a charity carnival's "white elephant" silent auction. But one of the carnival volunteers comes up with a way to be extra, um, helpful.

Why won't we help users create good passwords?

Sysadmin at this bank gets a call from a veteran loan officer who complains that he can't sign on to the core banking system -- and happens to be a serial offender at locking himself out of his account.

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